Ben Philpott

Senior Reporter, State Politics and Policy

Ben Philpott covers politics and policy for KUT. He’s also co-host of The Ticket 2016, a podcast produced by KUT and the Texas Tribune covering the presidential election. Ben has been covering state politics and dozens of other topics for the station since 2002. He's been recognized for outstanding radio journalism by the Radio and Television News Directors Association, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated, the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters and has been named Radio Journalist of the Year by the Houston Press club four times.

Before moving to Texas, he worked in public radio in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Ala., and at several television stations in Alabama and Tennessee. Born in New York City and raised in Chattanooga, Tenn., Philpott graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in broadcast journalism.

Ways To Connect

Picture Courtesy The Texas Tribune

A state lawmaker tasked with investigating an election challenge in a Travis County House District says Donna Howard (D-Austin) is the winner by 4 votes over her GOP challenger Dan Neil.  Howard won re-election to the Texas House on Election Day by 16 votes.  A recount lowered the margin to 12.

Picture courtesy of The Texas Tribune

House Speaker Joe Straus has released his list of committees for the 82nd Texas Legislative Session.  The list has dozens of changes from the last session.  Which was expected after Republicans gained 25 seats since 2009 and now have a supermajority in the House.  Democrats lost chairmanships on high profile committees like Ways and Means (where tax bills originate) and Transportation (which is were road bills originate).

Here's the list and demographic breakdown:

Sunday Morning Brief

Feb 6, 2011
picture courtesy of The Texas Tribune

You know what they say, if you don't like the weather in Texas...just wait a minute.  After 72-hours below freezing in Austin, we got into the upper 60's Saturday with another nice day ahead today.  BUT, we've got freezing temperatures and rain (or sleet or whatever) in the forecast this week.  So, don't pack your heavy coats yet.

On to the news of the day:


The Daily Show with Jon Stewart made a stop in Texas a few weeks back to tape a story on the Texas House Speaker's race.  The reason for the trip was the inclusion of some anti-semitic messages in the campaign to oust current Speaker Joe Straus, who is Jewish.  The segment aired Thursday night.  

Austin's state Representative Elliott Naishtat, who's also Jewish, was interviewed for the story but sadly didn't make the final cut.

Steve Carlton

This Sunday's Super Bowl will showcase two of the league's premier quarterbacks: Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and Pittsburgh's two-time champion Ben Roethlisberger. But along with that, Super Bowl XLV will also feature former Texas Longhorns and players who made names for themselves in the Lone Star State. Sunday's big game, played in Dallas Cowboys Stadium (or "Jerry World", as some people refer to it) will be a homecoming for some of the players.

Here's our list of Texas football players looking forward to the game of their lives this Sunday.

Picture by KUT News

The national unemployment rate dropped from 9.4% to 9% in January.  But the country only added 36,000 jobs.  The decrease came in part because of an increase people not looking for work, what the U.S. Department of Labor calls "marginally attached and discouraged" workers.  The manufacturing and retail sectors were added the most jobs.  Construction, transportation and warehousing shed the most jobs.

Picture by KUT News

The Texas Senate has added its take on the 2012-2013 Texas budget to the ongoing debate.  The Senate's version spends $158.7 billion.  That's $2.3 billion more than the Texas House's version of the bill.  The additional money includes about $500 million more for both the public education and higher education budgets.

Sunday Morning Brief

Jan 23, 2011
Picture by KUT News

Good morning from the KUT Newsroom.  We hope the high cedar and mold counts don't have you feeling like us (nothing like going through a box of tissue first thing in the morning).  Anyway...plenty of news to pass along this morning.

Austin ISD Goes Over Facilities Plan...again:

picture courtesy Michael Williams


Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams appears ready to make his campaign to replace U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison a full time job.  Ross Ramsey over at KUT's political reporting partner The Texas Tribune, says Williams will resign his commissioner's seat to focus his efforts on the race for higher office.

picture courtesy of The Texas Tribune

The referees have been named for the election battle between State Representative Donna Howard (D-Austin) and her Republican challenger Dan Neil.  Texas House Speaker Joe Straus sent out an e-mail today with a list of the 9 lawmakers on the House Select Committee on Election Contest.

Photo by KUT News

The Texas Senate was expected to take up its rules for the 2011 legislative session today.  But, they did not.  In fact they gaveled in and gaveled out in 10 minutes.  

Photo by KUT News

Governor Rick Perry, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus held their 1st weekly breakfast of the 2011 legislative session today.  After the meal (which included eggs, according to Speaker Straus) they met with the Capitol press corps to say basically the same thing they've been saying for the last years:  The state will balance the budget without any revenue increases.  

Texas Governor Rick Perry has handed out the first assignments for lawmakers in the 2011 legislative session.  In separate speeches before lawmakers in the House and Senate, Mr. Perry announced he was making the protection of private property rights and eminent domain along with abolishing sanctuary cities in Texas emergency items for the session.

Image by Dave Burnstein for KUT News

Texas comptroller Susan Combs estimates the state will generate $72.2 billion to spend on the 2012-2013 state budget. That's $5.6 billion less than the nearly $77.8 billion the state was certified to spend last legislative session two years ago. (Read the revenue estimate report here.)

The Comptroller says the state will bring in $76.5 billion over all, but Texas is already $4.3 billion behind on its current budget. The difference amounts to $72.2 billion.

KUT News

Ever since Arizona passed its controversial immigration law last year, some Texas lawmakers have been chomping at the bit for their chance to push similar legislation here.

U.S. Capitol
Image courtesy Andy-Beal

According to a new Rasmussen poll, the more things change in Washington, the more voters do not expect better results.  

Governor Perry on Election Night
Picture by KUT News

The 1st Sunday of 2011.  I hope more and more of you will resolve to start off your Sunday checking out the KUT News blog to see what's going on around town.

Taking a look at the top stories today:

Map of the population changes from 2000 to 2010
U.S. Census Bureau

UPDATE:  U.S. Census interactive map added at 12:50 p.m.

Texas now has 25,145,561 residents.  That number was released this morning by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The additional 4-million residents the state has added since 2000 brought an additional 4 U.S. House seats to the state.  Those seats will be divvied up during the 2011 Texas Legislative session. 

The Texas Capitol
Picture by Erik Reyna for KUT News

State House member Warren Chisum (R-Pampa) says he has collected a enough signatures to force the Republican caucus to take a vote on who will be the next House Speaker

In a e-mail statement released this morning, Rep. Chisum says the party needs the caucus to meet to select "one conservative candidate" for Speaker of the House. 

Dan Neil, the Republican in the race for House District 48, has filed a challenge against Democrat State House member Donna Howard.  Howard won re-election by 16 votes on Election Day.  That number was trimmed to 12 during an official re-count.  Now, Neil says a number of factors have lead him to file the challenge.